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Elections and Democracy

Area: Elections and Democracy

The Institute for Social Research has a long tradition for the study of elections and democracy. Several of the main contributions to this research tradition have been made by researchers at the institute over a number of decades. Today this research is more extensive than ever, and covers all democratic political elections in Norway.

Since 1957 the institute has studied electoral behaviour, political participation and public opinion in connection with parliamentary elections, and collaborated with corresponding studies in other countries. A long series of nation-wide interview-based surveys form the basis of ongoing analyses of long-term trends as well as current change processes. The study of the 2013 election is in progress, and some initial results have been presented.

Political parties and political representation have also been main research topics over a long period. In 2013 the institute’s researchers have published international articles on such topics as the parties’ policy-making, election of party leaders and the role perceptions of parliamentary candidates. We also study election campaigns in more depth, including the use of digital media.

Since 1995 we have studied citizens’ involvement and interest in local democracy through separate local election studies. In 2013 the results from the last study were presented in the book "Et robust lokaldemokrati" [A robust local democracy]. We also have projects that investigate the functioning of local democracy between elections, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Variation in political behaviour between social and demographic groups is a key aspect of election research at the Institute for Social Research. However, a new and growing group is not captured by standard election surveys— the immigrant population. Separate studies have therefore been conducted on the voting, electoral turnout and political representation of this group, and in 2013 the results were collected in the book “Minoritetsbefolkningens møte med det politiske Norge” [The minority population’s encounter with political Norway].

In recent years a separate programme has been established on elections to the Sámi Parliament, with the participation of researchers from the institute. The 2013 election to the Norwegian Sámi Parliament is being studied in collaboration with researchers from Sweden, which also had a Sámi parliamentary election in 2013. We are also collaborating internationally on indigenous peoples’ participation and representation, and an international anthology on this subject is in progress.

Norwegian democracy is an arena for various pilot projects for democratic innovations such as online voting and suffrage for 16-year-olds. Both of these trials are being evaluated by research groups chaired by the Institute for Social Research. These projects show how practical usefulness for commissioning authorities can be combined with international collaboration and international publishing, as there is significant international interest in these trials.

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